James Harden believes a media narrative was behind Giannis Antetokounmpo beating him to being named NBA MVP for 2018-19.
Houston Rockets guard and 2018 MVP Harden averaged 36.1 points in the regular season – the most since Michael Jordan tallied 37.1 in 1986-87 – and went on a stunning run of 32 30-point games in succession.
However, Antetokounmpo was the best player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record of any team. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
“[It was] one for the books. Even when I’m gone, they’re going to talk about it,” Harden said to 97.9 The Box of his season, before offering his thoughts on how the MVP race unfolded.
“It’s out of my control. Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year.
“I don’t want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There’s only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.
“People were tuned in to how many points I was going to score the next game. It was a thing. But I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is coming back next year and being better than I was, and winning a championship.”
— NBA (@NBA) June 25, 2019
The Rockets dealt Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder to add 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to their roster for 2019-20 and Harden is eager to get going.
“I’m excited. Obviously, Chris did an unbelievable job the two years that he was here. He’s helped our organisation and team a tremendous amount. But we have most of the same core guys coming back, and then we add Russ,” he said.
“We all know how Russ plays, and he’s even a greater guy off the court. It’s difficult playing against him, just because he plays with that aggression. He plays with that anger. But it’s going to be better to have him on our team now.
“Now we’ve got him and PJ [Tucker] … crazy together. We’ve got a lot of guys who are return and then you add Russ, it’s something special.”
On potential opponents in next year’s playoffs, Harden added: “It don’t even matter because we focus on ourselves. We’ve got so much talent in that locker room, and our organisation is so great.
“We don’t pay attention to other teams. We just focus on what we control, our team, and being the best we can be. Whoever we face, let’s get it on.”